Who’s Responsible for Water Service Line and Sewer Pipe Repairs?

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A break, clog, or leak in the water service lines and sewer pipes running to and from your home can cause a flood and thousands of dollars in damage if not taken care of properly.

The water service line brings water into your home. Sewer pipes carry wastewater from the home’s toilets, sinks, floor drain and laundry. Wastewater flows to a treatment plant.

What you might not know is your municipality is not responsible for all repairs. The city is responsible for maintaining and fixing the pipes that go from the property line to the municipal water main and sewers. The lines and pipes that run from the property line to your home are the homeowner’s responsibility.

The part of the pipes that run from the property line to your home are the homeowner’s responsibility.

“Most homeowners don’t realize this, and they are left unprotected,” says Carl McDowell, the owner of several Canada Waterproofers franchises.

Costs for service line repairs can be high

McDowell says a sewer pipe repair can cost anywhere from $1,800 to $15,000 or more. Water service line repairs can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000. Then there is the cost of fixing your property on top of that, such as resodding or repaving.

“Educate yourself before there are any problems,” says William Fernandes, director of water treatment and supply of Toronto Water for the City of Toronto. Plumbing tends to be “out of sight, out of mind” until there is an issue. Pipes are hidden behind walls or under floors and the ground, so they’re not something homeowners think about often.

Fernandes says the City of Toronto is working hard to help homeowners and has made available helpful information on managing water around the house. Homeowners should check their own municipality sites for region specific information.

Common issues with pipes include corrosion, blocked drains and sewers, collapsed drains and grease buildup. A sag in the pipe is another issue as debris will collect there and cause blockages.

The best defence is a good offence

  • Have the sewer lines and water service lines checked by a licensed professional every year (including clearing out any clogs). That’s especially true if there are a lot of trees on your property. Tree roots can grow into the pipe through cracks or joints, leading to leaks.
  • Install a full waterproofing system for the house. That includes a sump pump and a backwater valve. This is a device that is connected to your sewer line. It blocks water or sewage from flowing back into your home through the toilet, kitchen or bathtub drainpipes if there is heavy rain.
  • “We have noticed a big increase in popularity of these devices over the past five years,” McDowell says. A sump pump is installed in the basement and pumps water away from the foundations and footings of the property.
  • Avoid pouring chemical-based pipe cleaners down the drain. Those products can eat away at pipes if not discarded the right way.
  • Frozen pipes can burst. Before the first frost, unscrew hoses and insulate exposed pipes. Our Good Hands Advice blog story has more tips on this.
  • “Never flush anything other than toilet tissue,” says Scott Grayson, executive director of the Canadian Public Works Association. Items that do not belong in the toilet include wipes, feminine hygiene products, paper towels, dental floss, grease or oil, gum and cotton pads.
  • Speak to your insurance agent about water service line and sewer/septic line coverage.

“As operations and treatment practises vary across localities, homeowners should contact their local water utility for information regarding their local water operations,” Grayson adds.

A crew can fix any underground water line or sewer pipe in a day or less and cause as little impact on your lawn or landscaping as possible.

Your home is your castle. In the end, the cost to prevent problems on your property is far less than the financial and emotional costs of a flood or other issue in your water lines or sewer pipes.

Read more on helpful tips on how to avoid flooding around the home.